Derek McGrath’s side need a big performance against Clare to guarantee their top-tier survival and regain lost momentum, writes Richie Power.
Clare against Waterford is going to be a really big game.
They were last year’s league finalists but if Kilkenny beat Dublin and Tipperary beat Cork, the losers will find themselves in the relegation play-off as Cork have the edge on both in the head to head.
After winning at Nowlan Park the first day everyone thought Waterford were on the right track but they seem to have gone backwards a bit since then.
They’ve always struggled for goals and they’re going to have come with a different style of play to try and break down defences.
If you’re struggling to find the net, a game is always going to be tight.
It’s a worry for Derek McGrath but there are still a couple of players to come back from injury.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tony Kelly back for Clare. He lost the club final with Ballyea but he’s the kind of guy who would want to get back out on the field straight away.
He would be a huge boost if he is back, and along with Jack Browne and Gearoid O’Connell will make Clare much more formidable.
Kilkenny will take a lot of heart from the draw against Tipperary. It was a huge improvement on their three previous games - they showed a lot of fight and hunger.
The likes of TJ Reid coming back into form is a huge boost going into Sunday’s game.
But Parnell Park is not an easy place to go as I know all too well. Kilkenny’s record there wouldn’t be the best recently and Dublin have only been beaten once there in the league in six years.
Kilkenny will probably go in as favourites but it’s going to be a very tight game and could go either way.
Dublin will certainly be going all out to win the game. Even if that did mean that they met Kilkenny again in a relegation play-off then it gives them that belief that they can beat them.
With the Cuala guys to come back they’re only going to get stronger.
Tipperary are already guaranteed top seeding in the quarter-final, which does give them the opportunity to look at a few players on the fringes against Cork.
But they’ll want to win again to keep up the confidence ahead of their Munster quarter-final rematch and Michael Ryan is targeting the league as Tipp haven’t won it since 2008.
Cork have been a real enigma. I was very impressed with them the first night against Clare in Pairc Ui Rinn and fully expected them to beat Dublin the following week, which didn’t materialise.
They were very poor against Kilkenny and then very good against Waterford so they’ve been a mixed bag so far.
Kieran Kingston will need to get an idea of his settled team soon as Championship is only around the corner.
Plenty on line in 1B with change in the air
There needs to be something done with the league structure next year.
There are rumours of change in the hurling championship next year and if that happens, I can definitely see the league being changed to an eight-team top tier.
If it stays as it is, Division 1B would be a little bit more competitive next year with whoever goes down fighting it out with Galway and Limerick but it’s not doing the likes of Offaly, Kerry and Laois any good.
I don’t agree with teams getting two chances to avoid relegation. If you lose the play-off you should go down and whoever wins 2A should go straight up and play more competitive games, even if it means going back down the following year.
I’d expect Offaly to beat Kerry and escape the play-off. They’ve put in a couple of good performances against Limerick and Wexford.
Limerick and Galway need to be in the top tier and their game this weekend could actually turn out to be very important if the GAA do decide to make 1A eight teams in 2017.
Both will be looking for a win just in case that does happen.
Cuala triumph can inspire Dublin
Dublin hurling will get a huge boost from Cuala’s All-Ireland club title win on St Patrick’s Day.
Cuala were one of the strongest club teams I’ve seen in a final for years. I was very impressed with their style of play and their fitness levels.
The eight guys from the club who come back in to Ger Cunningham’s panel will be full of confidence.
That should give a lift to everyone else as well and help push things on.
I think you’ll see a different Dublin side when they are involved again.